This Sunday (19th June) I’ll be being ‘made’ an acolyte… but what does that mean?
In reality it’s the completion of my 3rd year of formation and the final step before ordination as a Deacon. In theory there’s a bit more to it.
The major-orders are Deacon, Priest and Bishop given in the sacrament(s) of ordination. The steps towards being ordained used to be known as the minor-orders. All that remain of the minor-orders are two ministries: lector (reader) and acolyte (assistant/server).
There was a time when every role in the liturgy was fulfilled by an instituted minister – the readings were read by lectors, the other jobs were performed by acolytes and the Eucharist was ministered by Deacons and Priests. These days it’s more common for commissioned lay people to do these roles in an extraordinary way.
Instituted means you are made that role forever anywhere. Commissioned means you have permission for one year in that place (parish/school etc.)
Instituted = the ordinary person for the job.
Commissioned = for extra-ordinary circumstances.
Obviously the extraordinary is now the norm in most parishes!
So… I will be an ‘ordinary’ reader of the scriptures and assistant at the altar and an ‘ordinary, extra-ordinary’ minister of Holy Communion!
If you’re not suitably confused you can read more here.